Sunday, November 22, 2015

Burning Metal

Rockaway Drive – We Live

Independent – 2012

Muthas, I’m not normally in the habit of reviewing three year old albums, but I was listening to an episode of the always awesome Rock And Metal Combat Podcast, and cohost Ian Wadley recommended a band by the name of Rockaway Drive.  He played a couple of their songs and I was completely blown away by the quality of the cuts.  I immediately began searching for information on them and I found their Facebook page and ReverbNation account.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any of their CDs for sale, and there only appeared to be a couple of their tracks for sale as downloads.  I then contacted the band and they quickly responded with information and a link to their whole album on Youtube. Thanks guys!  

Rockaway Drive is from the same city that’s home to half of my family - Louisville, Kentucky - and they play rock solid, traditional heavy metal.  In fact, if their debut album We Live had been released back in 1984, it would slot right in with other U.S. Power Metal like Shok Paris, Ded Engine, Breaker, and Riot. There’s a ton of mid-80s Judas Priest to many of these songs too, which is always a good thing.   

We Live features ten tracks and is 39 minutes long, which is the perfect length for an album – not so much material that you lose interest, but rather they leave you wanting more.  The songs themselves are mostly straight-up traditional metal with tasteful guitars and a solid rhythm section.  There are a couple of slightly more commercial tracks, and by that I mean commercial for 1984 because they sure as aren’t commercial for 2015!  The vocalist on the album is very good and he sounds like one part Rhett Forrester, one part Harry Conklin, with a dash of Midnight and a pinch of Mandy Lion’s rough edge.  Basically, he’s got the perfect voice for this type of material – melodic with a rough edge.  

Check out the songs “We Live” and “Black Witch” which are great examples of what they do.  In fact, just listen to the whole album below:

The band was nice enough to provide me with the following bio which should answer most of your questions: 

“Rockaway Drive was formed in August of 2009 with one goal in mind and that was to bring back the sounds of 70s and 80s Heavy Metal. In the six years of the band’s existence they have played countless local shows in the Louisville, KY area, and they have opened for such acts as Metal Legends Accept, Quiet Riot, and most recently, Sanctuary.  They released their debut album, We Live in 2012 to much critical acclaim.  Over the years there have been a few line-up changes and other challenges, but the band continues to march forward!  The current line-up are led by the twin axe attack of Mick Watkins and Wes Rogers, vocalist Dani O’Dea, bassist Brad Rogers and drummer Nigel Paul.  They are currently writing material for their sophomore release and aiming for a 2016 release date.”

Also, check out the following live videos featuring the current lineup:

I am looking forward to their new album and I hope they make We Live available in its entirety either digitally or in a physical format.  Pro tip - a Bandcamp page is always a good way to sell some downloads and merch!

The Bottom Line: Do you like U.S.P.M. and traditional heavy metal and do you like supporting independent bands?  If so, check out Rockaway Drive and throw them some coin when their new album is released.  I know I will. 


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Them Pacify While We Annihilate

Satan - Atom By Atom

Listenable – 2015

Muthas, in 2015 several NWOBHM bands have released, or are set to release, new albums.  I’ve already reviewed the new Iron Maiden, I’ll review the new Saxon shorty, and this time I’m reviewing the new album from Satan.  In 2013, Satan came out of nowhere with one of the best albums of the year – Life Sentence.  It has a legitimate claim to the crown for most impressive comeback album of all time.  The band intentionally wrote and recorded the album as if they were recording the follow-up to their 1983 classic Court In The Act.  Most bands claim to do this, but they normally deliver something that’s various shades of disappointing.  Life Sentence delivered on that promise and then some, with the album being maybe the best thing they have ever done.  So how does the new album, Atom By Atom stack up?  Read on!

Atom By Atom picks right up where Life Sentence left off and is definitely a worthy successor.  It features their patented intricate guitar work, solid rhythm section, and the ageless voice of Brian Ross. The forty seven minute album offers up ten tracks that are all good if not great.  There are no low points on the album to bore the listener, which is very rare with older, reunited bands. 

“Farewell Evolution” kicks off the proceedings with a killer scream and then tons of frantic, frenetic guitars that propel song ably.  It’s a great way to launch an album!  “Fallen Saviour” and “Ruination” display more pure speed, hooky guitar work and tasty vocals.  “The Devil’s Infantry” has appropriately martial drumming and crunchy guitars with really cool lyrics. Also, the final scream from Ross is a perfect display of his vocal power. Check it out here along with the rest of the album:

It should be noted that Satan write some insanely catchy choruses that will drill right into your gray matter and stay there for days and the title track is a great example of this. There are a couple of other superlatives tracks on the album – the galloping “In Contempt,” the middle-eastern flavored tinged “Ahriman,” and the uber-catchy “Bound In Enmity,” which reminds of their song “Twenty Twenty Five.” So damn good!

One of the absolute highlights of the LP is the final cut, “The Fall Of Persephone” which spins an epic tale of the destruction of the Earth by a meteor.  This is a departure for Satan with its varied tempos, mid-song spoken word piece, and the result is an unmitigated triumph. This sprawling track proves that you don’t need eighteen minutes to tell a great story and enthrall your audience.  Also, it’s not about a fucking blimp that crashes, which certainly helps.


The Bottom Line:   This is a great album and a more than worthy follow up to “Life Sentence.”  It’s definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the band, the NWOBHM or great heavy metal in general.  There’s much to love here and it’s definitely worth purchasing, so go out and get it.

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Of Lols?

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

BMG – 2015

Muthas, have you noticed that every recent album from the Old Masters of Metal has been praised to the hilt as being superb – Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and now Iron Maiden?  Let’s face the truth, most of these albums range from awful, to forgettable, to passable, to average.  None of them is “the best thing the band has ever done” regardless of what most reviewers and the band members themselves claim.  So that brings us to the latest album from Iron MaidenThe Book Of Souls.  Most of the reviews of this album have devolved into nothing more than a hagiography of Maiden, with such absurd claims that it’s the best album since Brave New World, or Fear Of The Dark, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, or even more absurdly Powerslave.  Come on man, that’s total bullshit.  Let’s not go crazy here, and instead let’s take a look at this album with an honest, critical eye.

Two things are immediately apparent upon the first listen to this 93 minute double album- the production by Kevin Shirley is fucking atrocious and Bruce’s vocals are very strained on the majority of the tracks. It’s is baffling to me that the band retains the services of Shirley because his production jobs are universally terrible.  There is absolutely no separation of the various instruments and the drum sound is particularly bad.  Poor Nicko’s drums sound like state of the art cardboard box drum sound from 1995.  Awful.  Bruce is really pushing it on most of the songs and the results are disappointing and troubling.  Bruce needs to take a page from Rob Halford’s book and pull it back a notch and realize that age has caught up with him.  The tongue cancer and chemo can’t have helped matters either.

What about the songs?  Well, there are eleven of them spread over two CDs.  Disc one clocks in at 50 minutes and disc two at 43 minutes. Of course there are some longer tracks, but there are many sub eight minute cuts for a change.  The album kicks off with “If Eternity Should Fail” and it’s a very good opener, with a catchy chorus and doesn’t feel its eight minute length.  The next song is the lead single, “Speed of Light” which feels dull and lifeless at first, but does get somewhat better with repeated listens.  There is a cool video game themed video for it which you can check out below:

“The Great Unknown is a good song that delivers the goods and has that vintage Maiden sound, but the album comes to a screeching halt with the next cut, “The Red And The Black.” Unfortunately, this is not a cover of the killer BOC song, but rather a bloated thirteen minute cut that could really use some judicious trimming.  Of course this is a Steve Harris construction and exhibits all of his worst modern day songwriting habits.  There’s probably a great five minute song lurking in there someplace, but I don’t have the patience for Steve’s bullshit. 

Thankfully, this is followed by “When The River Runs Deep” which shows tons of pep and is not repetitive at all which helps to clean the palate after “The Red And The Black.” Disc one closes with the ten minute title cut, and of the three ten-minute-plus songs on the album it’s the best.

Disc two opens with “Death Or Glory” which sounds like the Iron Maiden of the days of yore and is easily one of the best songs on the album.  It’s direct, full of energy and is a fun listen.  “Shadows Of The Valley” is enjoyable and sounds like something that could have been on Somewhere In Time without the synth guitars. 

“Tears Of A Clown” has cringe inducing lyrics about a comedian that’s really sad inside and it’s dedicated to Robin Williams. Maiden deserves a round of cock punches for this trite horseshit.  A clown that’s sad?!  How inventive!  I’ve never heard of that before.  Fuck off with this.  Paradoxically, the music is very good on this track with some very nice guitar work.  Too bad about the lyrics being hot garbage.

“The Man Of Sorrows” is a bit lackluster and sort of just plods along. It’s not the worst song on the album, but it’s one of the more forgettable compositions.  By the way, really inventive song title there Maiden.  It’s not like Bruce has a far superior song with the same title or anything.    

And that leaves us with only the eighteen minute and three second “Empire Of The Clouds” which many are hailing as a masterpiece on par with “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.”  Those people are fucking idiots. This song is thirteen minutes too long and is a perfect example of self-indulgent, repetitive twaddle featuring Bruce Dickinson at his pretentious worst.  Egads.  There isn’t even a guitar solo until ten minutes into this journey to the center of boredom.  The rest of the band was probably like, “Oh fuck!  Bruce has cancer!  We’d better indulge this horseshit because who knows how long he’ll be around.”  Of course it’s about a blimp that crashed in 1930.  How exciting!  I’d rather listen to Bruce recite passages from a 747 maintenance manual.  Fuck this shit. Boo!!!!

Well this is harsh.  It's not that bad.

The Bottom Line:  The Book Of Souls is not a great Iron Maiden album, but it is the best Iron Maiden album since the reunion.  Of course, that’s not much of a high bar to hurdle, but they did at least achieve that.  If you are a fan of the band from their classic period you will find a lot to enjoy here even with its flaws.  It’s bloated with several tracks that are absurdly long, but you can always skip the nonsense.  If this sounds like something you’d like, then go buy it, or better yet, go buy Bruce’s Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding which are far better than anything that Maiden has put out since 1988.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Killers Are Ready

Enforcer - From Beyond

Nuclear Blast Records - 2015

Muthas, Swedish metallers Enforcer are back with their fourth album, From Beyond, and it's a blazing 42 minutes of 100% pure, unadulterated, chromium steel. 2013's Death By Fire was great, and this new album is definitely its equal, if not even better! It’s rock-solid and all of the songs are top notch, which makes it a great companion to Death By Fire. There are loads of balls-out speed metal tracks mixed with heavy doses of traditional metal, and that's a winning combination in my book. 

From Beyond features mostly speedier cuts, as it to be expected from Enforcer, but it does have a couple of longer, epic tracks that are very good.  Frankly, there aren't any bad songs on the album at all.  It's clear that Enforcer knows how to write excellent songs, and one of their strengths is their choruses - they are total earworms!  Some bands struggle with this, but Enforcer's choruses will be stuck in your head long after you're done listening to the album. Also, the album is very well sequenced and is the perfect length for vinyl - all of which is conducive to a great listening experience.

"Destroyer" is the absolutely ripping opening cut and it's also the lead single and video.  Check it out below:

"Undying Evil" is the second track and it's another freewheel burner with an anthemic chorus and lyrics about vampires.  Check out the video for this bloodthirsty killer of a tune:

"One With Fire" and “Hell Will Follow” are examples of the killer, balls out, speedsters that have become a staple of Enforcer albums. Once again, the band has included an excellent instrumental - "Hungry They Will Come" - and it's positioned perfectly at the midpoint of the proceedings.  I love that Enforcer has a real appreciation for meaty instrumentals, as they've become something of a lost art since their 80s heyday.  Well done lads. "Below The Slumber" and "Mask Of Red Death" are the two longer, epic tracks and they are both very good.  They ably showcase another aspect of the band's excellent songwriting skills.  Would you like to hear some sweet, dual-guitar Maidenisms without ploughing through a 92 minute, two CD monstrosity? If the answer is yes, you should definitely check out the guitar noodling on “The Banshee.” 
In other news, Enforcer is releasing their first live album – Live By Fire – on November 20th and they are embarking on a co-headling tour of the States with Warbringer, Cauldron, and Exmortus.  Here are the dates:


The Bottom Line: From Beyond is a great follow-up to Death By Fire and is well worth picking up if you are a fan of Traditional Metal, Speed Metal or plain old good music.  Enforcer proves once again why they are the cream of crop of the NWOTHM.  Highly recommended!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Blackened Swarms Of Sorrow

Orchid – Sign Of The Witch

Nuclear Blast Records – 2015

Muthas, San Francisco doomsters Orchid are back with their fifth (!) EP and, as per usual, it’s a superb mini-collection of 70s-inspired metal.  Most people think of EPs as being throwaways or stop-gaps, but Orchid’s are just as good as their LPs.  They assemble all of their recordings with great care regardless of the length which is not usually the case with other bands.  I love these shorter musical statements and I wish more bands would embrace the format, but I doubt they are very lucrative financially.   

Here’s a breakdown of the tracks:

“Helicopters” – Starts the album off with a crash and follows with a sense of impending destruction that permeates the rest of the song. Lyrically it’s about a village that’s being attacked, most likely during the Vietnam War.   It’s a very good track and reminds me a bit of “War Pigs.”

"John The Tiger" – The song is a perfect example of how Orchid truly understands one facet of Sabbath’s music that’s frequently missing from other doom bands – sometimes you just gotta swing!  This is definitely a toe-tapper and one of the highlights of the EP.  Killer!

"Under The Sign Of The Witch" – The lead single/video is a prototypical Orchid song, which means it recalls the glory of the Sabs without exactly copying any one particular song.  A massive drum sound is coupled with an excellent chorus that will get stuck in your brain for hours.  You’ve been warned!  Check out the video below:

"Strange Winds" – The last cut is a mystical, ethereal ballad that features a creepy 60s style organ sound that compliments and enhances the atmosphere of the song.  Orchid always excels at these ballads – e.g., “Falling Away” – and this one is no exception. 

One of the reasons that Orchid is one of my favorite bands is they understand the importance of cover art, fonts and layout.  They’ve got a very good sense of aesthetics and this time it’s exemplified by the 3d cover art on the EP, the cool fonts on the cover and spine, and the use of Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death for center labels and on the back cover.  Kudos fellas!


The Bottom Line:  Sign Of The Witch is another excellent EP and it’s certainly worth your bucks.  If you’ve never purchased anything by Orchid, this is a great place to start as it’s a good overview of what they have to offer.  Check it out.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Party With The Demons Down Below

Venom – From The Very Depths

Spinefarm Records – 2015

Muthas, NWOBHM stalwarts Venom released a new album back in January and it’s a rib-cracking, gut-pounding, rip-ride of Metal.  It might be the best thing they have done since their 1995 reunion, and it’s certainly the best release with the current lineup of Cronos, Rage and Dante.  Let me state right off the bat that if you are only a fan of “classic” Venom from their Neat Records days, you might not like this album.  This is modern Venom and it’s much more groove-oriented than what you may have been expecting.  If you only like Black Metal this won’t be your cup of poison, but you might want to give it a listen anyway if you like your thrash with some groove.

The band’s last album was Fallen Angels from way back in 2011, and it was a long slog through fifteen tracks of lackluster tunes.  From The Very Depths is 14 tracks and its fifteen minutes shorter than Fallen Angels and two of those tracks are brief instrumentals, so there’s only 12 tracks of real material.  The shorter length really helps tighten up the proceedings and, as a result, the album never feels long and has a great flow.  Cronos is the producer and his knob-twiddling efforts result in a superb production that is the best any Venom album has ever had.   The album is packed full of loads of mid-paced, crushing songs such as “Smoke,” “Temptation,” “Stigmata,” “Crucified,” “Mephistopheles,” and “Wings Of Valkyrie,”  Check out the video for “Smoke” below:

There are some speedier cuts sprinkled throughout the album to keep things moving along such as the title track, “The Death of Rock N Roll,” “Grinding Teeth,” and “Long Haired Punks.”  Check out the videos for “Long Haired Punks” and "Grinding Teeth" below:

One oddity is the track “Evil Law” which is a groovy mid-paced, stomper that’s apparently sung in Ancient Sumerian?!  I am not so sure I believe that one, but that’s what Conrad Lant is claiming and my Ancient Sumerian Rosetta Stone lessons were lost in the mail, so I guess we’ll just have to take old Cronos at his word. The album closes with the anthemic “Rise” which would make a great opening live track when they hit the road.  Venom is on the bill for the Maryland Deathfest XIV in 2016, so maybe they’ll play some of these new tracks then.   


The Bottom Line:  Venom has conjured up a surprisingly good album of groove-based thrash, and if that’s your thing you should definitely pick this one up.  It’s clearly superior to all the other modern Venom albums, and it’s great to see them come out with an album that’s this good so late in their career. 


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Satan’s Serenade

Night Demon
 Live In The Steel City

Muthas, have you ever seen a band that not only commands the stage, but demands your attention?  That’s what Night Demon did in a tiny club in Pittsburgh on Tuesday June 6th.  They blazed through a high energy set of absolutely killer tunes as if they were playing in front of a crowd of thousands. Their relentless assault reminded me of when I saw Motorhead for the first time and they absolutely blew me away.

Did they waste any time with pointless chit-chat and rambling nonsense in between songs?  Fuck no.  They played song after song with barely a pause in between.  Night Demon was the physical embodiment of "all killer, no filler!" They didn’t let the lack of monitors affect them in any way - they simply played like they were on stage at Wacken Open Air instead of Gooski’s bar.  They even used a smoke machine and a light show to great effect! When was the last time you saw a band do that in a tiny bar?!

 If you aren’t already aware, they also have a mascot – Rocky – who comes out during the song “The Chalice” – and interacts with the crowd.  It’s hilarious and badass at the same time, and is a great example of Night Demon’s determination to entertain their fans.  In another bid to be fan-friendly, the band keeps merch prices low - $15 shirts – and they offer a great variety of items. When was the last time you saw a tour program and for a mere $8!  They also sell a couple of different patches, a baseball hat, CDs and vinyl – all for great prices.

It was a great night and everyone in the band was gracious enough to sign CDs, vinyl, tour programs, etc.  Jarvis, Brent and Dusty are very approachable and more than wiling to chat with the fans.  Be sure to ask Dusty about the Ultimate Warrior and don’t forget to get Andrew Bansal’s (aka Rocky) autograph!  Also, check out Andrew’s awesome website – Metal Assault. 

Here's the setlist:

Screams In The Night
Full Speed Ahead
Heavy Metal Heat
Lightning To The Nations (Diamond Head cover)
The Howling Man
Curse Of The Damned
Livin’ Dangerous
Road Racin’ (Riot cover) (Dedicated to yours truly!)
Ancient Evil
The Chalice
Save Me Now
Axe Crazy (Jaguar cover)
Night Demon


  The Bottom Line:  Go see them and buy some damn merch!  These guys are more than deserving of your ducats.  Also, you’d better go see them now before they are in limousines and jets, stylin’ and profilin’! You can find their tour dates here: